what I learned by occupying Wall Street

I am a shy activist. All that hollering and placard-wearing makes me nervous. I mean, what if they tell me I’m not cool enough to march with them, or worse–that I’m “part of the problem”?

This weekend, though, I swallowed my middle-school playground fears and sat down amongst the earnest souls in Liberty Square. I read Naomi Klein’s heartening welcome speech in the Occupied Wall Street Journal. I chatted with the Grannies for Peace and perused the Library nook.

I learned that the best way to overcome activism shyness (or inertia, or general crowd-squeamishness) is to get busy. If drumming’s your thing, by all means bring a drum, and you’ll find plenty of company. But I saw a number of (more) inspiring creative endeavors designed to get people chatting and keep people busy:

-a photo booth set up for We are the 99% portraits sent to the tumblr site along with personal text messages–carnival masks optional

-a silkscreening table with three hip 99% logo options and a bolt of canvas patches: for a donation, passersby could get an item of clothing screened on the spot

-a Learn to Knit clinic with donated wool and needles

-two old ladies unloading trays of home-baked goodies from their car for the camp Kitchen

Protest, civil disobedience, resistance–the camp is those things but something more, too. It’s a lesson in practicing community differently. It’s an experiment in equality, fraternity, public interest and consensus. In the words of the TASK sign in the snapshot below: THINK b4 you act/ACCEPT responsibility for your actions/SPEAK clearly and be understood/KEEP an open mind.

Sounds like democracy in action to me.

Next time I occupy, I will check the supplies wish-list on the website and scrounge together what I can (Markers. Cardboard. Scissors. Tarps. Rubber boots, any size). I’ll think of something I know how to do well, and go do it there, with enough materials for others to join in. Making Gods’-eyes comes to mind…

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